Ms. Mae's/The Club is a popular late-late-night bar Uptown. Photo by Bryce Lankard It's 3 a.m. You're gripping the edge of the wooden bar to steady yourself, leaning on tiptoes to get the bartender's attention. He hustles over and yells, 'hurry up" as you shout back a drink order (and probably some spit) in his ear. Toss down two bucks for a low-grade rum and Coke, and you're free to stumble through the crowded, hazy smoke-filled room of Ms. Mae's to reunite with friends equally as drunk as you are. It's 3 a.m. and you're just getting started. In a city that knows no last call, a proclivity to late-night drinking is commonplace. More than likely, this isn't even the last stop.
The late-late-night bar is a strange breed, one that can take many forms, be it tavern, dive bar, college club or swanky hotel hotspot. However, it is often identified by a few simple characteristics: It is almost always open 24 hours; its interior decor and room dimensions elude memorization; and it's nearly impossible to find your way back while sober. Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge, is a particularly alluring siren-like neighborhood dive, whose glowing holiday wreath perched above the threshold beckons from the nether realms of consciousness, imploring you to come in for one last drink " if for no other reason than because it's there.
Regarding the long and winding road of life, most people say it's not where you end up that really matters; it's the journey itself that counts. When it comes to drinking in New Orleans, this is not true. By the end of a long night out, it's more likely that you won't even remember how you got to where you are, and after several hours of traipsing about town " go-cup in hand " the final destination is key to your survival. The late-late-night bar can either be the source of your salvation or the portal to hell.
When you find yourself at a late-late-night bar " reluctant to be the first one to go home after several hours of drinking " your alcohol choices are more or less the same as at any other bar, but you may want to opt for water instead, which will very likely save your life (and your job, if you have to work the next day). This is especially true when paired with food, particularly of the hearty bar variety conversely. It appears that some late-late-night drinkers prefer to address the problem of intoxication with treating like versus like, a principle borrowed from the much more holistic realm of homeopathy. This entails drinking more alcohol on top of already being drunk, until inducing vomit. This is not recommended.
The consumption of greasy food (also known as 'jamming the chasm" by some late-night drinkers), however, will certainly help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover the next day, and has the added advantage of happening in between today and tomorrow, so the calories don't really count. Checkpoint Charlie's makes our list as a great late-late-night bar because of its comprehensive set of 24-hour amenities: a wide array of bar food served late into the night, affordable drinks, a prime location at the edge of Frenchmen Street and a regular schedule of local musicians " a helpful distraction if you're going head to head with others vying for the drinkers' heavyweight title, Last Man Standing.
If you haven't had enough by 3 a.m., and are simply looking for a place to hide out with friends and avoid a large late-night crowd, we recommend the Saint. It offers asylum in its darkly lit interior and anonymity among the other late-night drinkers seeking refuge in the damp, catacomb-like dive tucked away on a random corner in the Lower Garden District.
Upon arrival to their final destination, some late nighters experience a phenomenon known as flight response. Flight response occurs during the split second in which the floor stops spinning and you realize you need to remove yourself from the premises to avoid further embarrassment. Flight response can lead to a host of outcomes upon exiting the bar, most of which are not fit to publish here.
There are late-night bars known for their rowdy, uncouth crowds, however. Aunt Tiki's, a bar more amenable to the goth-loving, pierced crowd, makes a good late-night bar because of its prime location on Decatur Street " a convenient place to reconvene between Uptown and downtown. Regardless of the what the sign says over the door or change of ownership, it remains the mother of all late-night dives, and a place where you might not care whether or not you embarrass yourself.
This is not to say the late-night bar cannot be enjoyed in moderation as well. Igor's is a late-night bar known for its spicy bloody Mary as well as a solid burger, both of which come in handy during times of celebration " when you actually plan to pull an all-nighter on Lundi Gras for the Zulu parade, or get an early start to tailgating during football season.
An amorphous animal, the late-night bar will lure you in for reasons beyond your one-too-many-flaming-shots comprehension, but it remains a time-honored tradition during times of celebration as well as times when you have nothing else to live for. All told, the late-night bar can be a great way to (finally) end, or start, your day.